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Analysis after Alexander Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison 's impeachment testimony

Their testimony kicked off the second week of open hearings in the House's impeachment inquiry.

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The second week of public hearings in the House's impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump kicked off on Tuesday with testimony from four current and former administration officials.

Former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former National Security Council staffer Tim Morrison testified beginning around 3:30 p.m. ET. Earlier Tuesday, NSC staffer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, testified for around 4.5 hours starting at 9 a.m ET.

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Trump impeachment highlights:

Trump impeachment explained.

Trump impeachment timeline.

Who are the attorneys questioning the witnesses?

Transcript of Trump's conversation with Ukrainian president

Read the latest updates below:

Live Blog

'Never seen anything' like it: Official testifies about Trump-Sondland restaurant call

A top official at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine told impeachment investigators he had "never seen anything like" the late July phone conversation he overheard between President Donald Trump and his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, in a Kyiv restaurant.

"This was an extremely distinctive experience in my Foreign Service career," David Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, said in a deposition Friday, according to a transcript released late Monday. "I've never seen anything like this, someone calling the president from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language. There's just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly."

The call Holmes is referencing is one first brought up by the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, during last week's public testimony. Taylor said one of his staffers, later revealed to be Holmes, overheard a phone call on July 26 during which Trump asked Sondland about "the investigations," meaning the probes into the Bidens and Democrats.

Read the story.

Eight weeks of impeachment has taken a toll on Trump

It’s been a rough last eight weeks for Trump and the GOP: Eight whole weeks have now passed since Democrats began their impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24, and it’s hard to overstate just how damaging those eight weeks have been for Trump and the GOP.

Let us list the ways.

  • Every week (and sometimes every day) has produced a new bombshell revelation. The most recent was from State Department official David Holmes, who testified he overheard a phone conversation between Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland: “I then heard President Trump ask, quote, ‘So he’s going to do the investigation?’ unquote. Ambassador Sondland replied that, ‘He’s going to do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will quote, ‘Do anything you ask him to.’”
  • Republicans have been forced to give changing and conflicting defenses – Trump’s July 25 call was perfect; there was no quid pro quo; if there was a quid pro quo, it’s not impeachable; the testimony against Trump is merely hearsay; let the voters decide about the president’s actions.
  • During it all, Trump has tweeted more and more, including that tweet Friday directed at witness Marie Yovanovitch: “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”
  • The president has uttered more and more falsehoods about Ukraine and impeachment (CNN has counted 45 different false claims.)
  • And during this time period, the GOP has lost gubernatorial elections in the red states of Kentucky and Louisiana, as well as control of the legislature in increasingly blue Virginia.

The good news for Trump is that the totality of the last eight weeks hasn’t changed his political standing. A new NPR/PBS/Marist poll has his approval rating essentially unchanged at 41 percent, and it shows the public is divided about his impeachment/removal from office.

But what the impeachment inquiry has done is produce the worst version of Trump – the tweeting, the dissembling, the changing explanations.

As we wrote on Friday, he can’t compartmentalize.

Johnson recounts Ukraine conversation with Trump, omits '2016' mention

Sen. Ron Johnson on Monday sent a letter to Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee recounting a discussion he had with Trump about a hold on financial aid to Ukraine — but omitted that Trump had tied the issue to the 2016 campaign in their talk. 

Johnson sent the 10-page letter to Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan after they asked him to share "any firsthand information you have about President Trump's actions toward Ukraine between April and September 2019."

Johnson said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last month that E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland had told him in August that almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine had been frozen because the Trump administration was trying to get a new prosecutor appointed in Ukraine. That prosecutor would move to "get to the bottom of what happened in 2016— if President Trump has that confidence, then he’ll release the military spending," he quoted Sondland as saying.

Johnson told the paper the suggestion made him "wince" because "I don't want to see those two things combined."

Johnson also told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month that he'd discussed the 2016 election with the president.    

 "He was very consistent on why he was considering it. It was corruption overall generalized, but yeah, no doubt about it, what happened in 2016, what happened in 2016, what was the truth about that, and then the fact that our NATO partners don’t step up to the plate,” Johnson told the paper in an interview posted on the paper's website.

In his letter to Nunes and Jordan, however, Johnson said his memory of that conversation is fuzzy. 

"I did not memorialize the conversation in any way, and my memory of exactly what Sondland told me is far from perfect. I was hoping that his testimony before the House would help jog my memory, but he seems to have an even fuzzier recollection of that call than I do," Johnson wrote.

He said he spoke to former national security adviser John Bolton after talking to Sondland, and Bolton suggested he call Trump and Mike Pence. 

"I requested calls with both, but was not able to schedule a call with Vice President Pence. President Trump called me that same day," Johnson wrote. 

"The president was not prepared to lift the hold, and he was consistent in the reasons he cited. He reminded me how thoroughly corrupt Ukraine was and again conveyed his frustration that Europe doesn’t do its fair share of providing military aid," Johnson wrote.  

Johnson said he asked if "there was some kind of arrangement where Ukraine would take some action and the hold would be lifted. Without hesitation, President Trump immediately denied such an arrangement existed."

 

How to watch week 2 of the impeachment hearings: Schedule, witnesses and more

The first public presidential impeachment hearings in over 20 years continue on Tuesday with lawmakers' busiest day yet, as they're set to hear testimony from four witnesses — three of whom were listening in on the July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Two of the three, National Security Council staffer Lt. Col. Alex Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, thought the call was troubling. The third, former NSC staffer Tim Morrison, said at his closed-door deposition that he didn't think there was anything illegal about the call, but recommended it be secured for fear it would leak.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee had asked that Morrison and the fourth of the day's witnesses, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, be called to testify publicly. Both have defended the president — but both have also provided information corroborating Democrats' assertions that Trump was withholding aid in order to force its president to announce an investigation into Joe Biden's son Hunter.

Read more about how to watch.